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10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Quilts of 2018

More and more backpackers are switching from sleeping bags to backpacking quilts because they’re lighter weight, more compressible, and more comfortable, especially for side sleepers. While top quilts have always been popular with the hammock crowd because they’re easier to use in the confined space of a hammock, they’re also a great sleeping system option for ground sleepers, when coupled with a sleeping pad. Backpacking quilts are ideal for summer and warm weather since they’re so easy to vent if you’re too hot. But in freezing temperatures, starting at 30 degrees and below, most backpackers still prefer a sleeping bag because the wraparound fabric is less drafty.

Here are our choices for the top 10 best backpacking quilts based on price, insulation, temperature rating, weight, features, versatility, sizing, and availability (see below for detailed explanations of each criteria.) All of these quilts are made and sold by so-called cottage manufacturers, which range in size from one-man shops to medium-sized businesses that employee dozens of people. All of them produce very high quality products that are significantly lighter weight and better performing than the quilts produced by mass-market gear companies like ENO, Therm-a-Rest, Kammock, Sea-to-Summit, and Sierra Designs.

The advantage of buying a custom-made quilt from a cottage manufacturer is that you can personalize it with added features, higher quality/lighter weight insulation, or custom fabric colors. An increasing number of quilt makers also offer budget quilts made with a limited set of options that are much less expensive and often available immediately. These are a great option if you’re trying a backpacking quilt for the first time and overwhelmed by the customization choices available.

1. Katabatic Gear Flex Quilt

KB Flex 40
The Katabatic Gear Flex is a quilt that can used in a hammock or on the ground, coupled with a sleeping pad. Weight varies by temperature rating, but a standard-sized Flex 40 weighs 16.9 oz. It’s available with regular or HyperDRY waterproof goose down and comes with a sleeping pad attachment system to help prevent side drafts. The’ Flex also has a very desirable draft collar that snugs around your neck and prevents heat from escaping when you move around at night. The Flex footbox can be zippered closed and has a draw-string vent, or you can  unzip it completely and use it as a blanket. Katabatic Gear has a well-deserved reputation for making quilts that exceed their temperature rating. Price range $260.00-$435.00.

Read SectionHiker’s Katabatic Gear Flex 40 Gear Review

Buy at Katabatic Gear

2. Hammock Gear Burrow Econ Quilt

Burrow
The Hammock Gear Burrow Econ is a quality top quilt that’s available at a very aggressive discount because it’s only available in a limited range of colors, sizes, and temperature ratings. For example, a 17.26 oz, regular-sized Econ 40 quilt only costs $120.00, which is a great deal. It comes with 800 fill power durable water-resistant duck down, which is just as warm as 800 fill power goose down (see explanation.) The Burrow can be used in a hammock or with a sleeping pad using a ($5) pad attachment kit. It’s also available with a vented snapped foot box or one that’s sewn shut, which is better for colder weather. Price range $110.00-$165.00.

Buy at Hammock Gear

3. Loco Libre Ghost Pepper

LL Ghost Pepper
The Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper is a down quilt made with a unique chevron style baffle, which limits the amount of down shift by catching it in the corners that the baffle forms every time it changes direction. This eliminates cold spots and means that the down stays on top, where you want it, so you can stay warm. The Ghost Pepper is available in a wide range or widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, and foot box styles. You can even add a sleeping pad attachment system. This can all be very confusing for first time quilt buyers, but they are very patient and happy to explain “the why” before you buy. Some of the of the key options offered are 800 duck or 900 goose fill power water-resistant down, a draft collar, different taper styles, a drawstring vented or closed footbox, and added insulation. A basic Ghost Pepper 40 weighs in at 14.5 oz. Price Range: $154.00-$474.00

See SectionHiker’s Ghost Pepper 20 Review

Buy at Loco Libre

4. UGQ Outdoor Bandit

UGQ Bandit

The UGQ Bandit has a unique baffle design that separates the torso insulation from the foot box insulation so you can put extra insulation where it’s needed most. The Bandit is also highly customizable and available in a wide range of widths, lengths, and temperatures. You can choose untreated 800 fill power duck, 850 goose, or 950 goose down, several different fabric options (in a multitude of colors) with different breathability and DWR characteristics, a draft collar, full or no taper, and three different foot box options. A sleeping pad attachment system is also included for free. A basic Bandit 40 weighs 14 oz. Price Range: $160-$400.

Buy at UGQ Outdoor

5. Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller

JRB Sierra SNIVf
The Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller is a 25-30 degree (24 oz) quilt can be used for sleeping in a hammock or on the ground and includes perimeter tabs for a ground attachment system. It’s unique because it can also be worn as an insulated garment, with a non-snagging, mixed hook & loop re-sealable head hole in the chest. The hole seals tightly when not used so there’s no heat loss through it. You can also choose between a drawstring or sewn in foot box. The Sniveller is available in two lengths and filled with 800 fill power goose down, either treated or untreated. Price Range: $270.00-$280.00

Buy at Jacks ‘R’ Better

6. Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Revelation 2
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is a quilt that can be used in a hammock or for sleeping on the ground. It’s available in a wide range of different  length, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabric weights. The Revelation comes with a pad attachment system and a zippered/ drawstring footbox and half taper. You can also choose from three different grades of treated, water-resistant down: 850 fill power duck down and 900 or 950 fill power goose down. A basic made-to-order Revelation 40 weighs 14.32 oz. Price Range: $225.00-$510.00

Buy at Enlightened Equipment

7. Warbonnet Mamba

Warbonnet Mamba
The Warbonnet Mamba is primarily designed for hammock use, but is available in a wider XL width (55″) which is more suitable for sleeping on the ground. It has a mummy-style footbox, is available in multiple lengths, and three temperature ratings, including 40, 20, and 0 degrees.  The Mamba is made with a black, 20d DWR ripstop shell fabric and overstuffed with 850 Fill Power Hyper-Dry Goose down. A regular sized 40-degree Mamba weighs 13.81 oz, while a wide weighs 16.3 oz. Price Range: $245.00-$330.00

Buy at Warbonnet Outdoors

8. Nunatak Arc UL

Nunatak arc-ul
The Nunatak Arc UL is a quilt designed for long distance hikers. It’s available in four different temperature ratings: 40, 30, 20 and 10 degrees, in a wide variety of lengths and widths, with or without a draft collar, with or without a pad attachment system, and several different outer shell and liner fabrics that emphasize breathability or water repellency. One of the unique options available on the Arc UL, is the installation of external snaps that allow you to layer a synthetic quilt with it for cold weather use. The Arc UL is also available with 900 fill power HyperDry goose down, treated or untreated. A basic, regular sized Arc UL 40 weighs 14.8 oz. Price Range: $290.00-$550.00.

Buy at Nunatak

9. Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20

Marcy 20
The Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20 is three season quilt available in a multiple widths, lengths, tapers, shell fabrics, and colors. It has a unique side draft elimination system for ground sleepers that relies on perimeter shock cord rather than sleeping pad straps, which are easy to lose or forget at home. The Marcy 20 has a vented footbox and can be insulated with 850 fill power HyperDry goose down or 800 fill power, untreated duck down. A basic, regular Marcy 20 weighs 23 oz. Price Range: $235.00-$350.00.

Read SectionHiker’s Mid Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20 Quilt Review

Buy at Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works

10. MassDrop Revelation Quilts

Massdrop Rev 2
The MassDrop Revelation Quilt is a ready-made budget backpacking quilt of their own design, manufactured in China on a contract basis by Enlightened Equipment. If you’re not familiar with MassDrop, they sell small batches of a specific product called “drops” over a multi-day period, giving increasingly deeper discounts when higher volumes are sold. While the specs of the quilts they sell can vary from batch to batch, they’re usually one-step down from the custom or on-the-shelf quilts sold directly by Enlightened Equipment, with slightly heavier shell fabrics and lower fill power down insulation. Despite the differences, they’re high quality backpacking quilts and priced to move!

Read the SectionHiker MassDrop Revelation 20 Quilt Review

Check Availability at MassDrop

Backpacking Quilt Selection Criteria

Here is a list of factors to consider when selecting an ultralight backpacking quilt.

INSULATION: High quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers because they’re so lightweight. In addition to excellent compressibility, quilts insulated with down will last for decades of use if properly cared for. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down lasts as long and insulates as well in the real world vs. a testing lab. Regardless, with a little care and common sense you can keep a down quilt dry by carrying it in a waterproof stuff stack, picking good campsites that don’t flood in rain, and airing it out occasionally in the sun.

TEMPERATURE RATINGS: The introduction of standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings by the outdoor industry substantially improved their reliability. Many manufacturers had overstated their temperature ratings by as much as 10 degrees before that standard was introduced. No such testing standard exists for backpacking quilts, so you’re forced to rely on their reputation and customer reviews. When buying a backpacking quilt, the current rule of thumb is to purchase one rated for 10 degrees below your needs to ensure you’ll be warm enough. There is enormous incentive for ultralight quilt makers to quote low gear weights, so read their customer reviews carefully.  Women may want to add 15-20 degrees of insulation because they sleep colder than men due to lower body mass. No one makes women’s specific quilts yet, although there is an obvious need for them.

WEIGHT: While gear weight is important, be careful not to sacrifice your comfort by selecting a quilt that won’t keep you warm in the conditions you need it to. In fact, insulation is usually the lightest weight component of a quilt, where the bulk of its weight comes primarily from the fabric used to make it. When choosing fabrics, consider their breathability and whether they have a DWR coating, which can be important if the foot of your quilt gets wet regularly  If you plan on using your quilt heavily, consider getting a heavier inner shell fabric as this is where the greatest wear and tear occurs over the long-term.

FEATURES: Most ultralight backpacking quilts are pretty similar when it comes right down to it. But there’s something unique about each of manufacturer’s quilts listed above that improves their performance in a unique way. For example: the use of continuous or chevron-shaped baffles, draft collars, zoned insulation, closed foot-boxes and external snaps for quilt layering, all improve cold weather performance. A strapless pad attachment system is far more convenient and comfortable than ones that rely on straps, while a head-hole enables multi-use as a garment. Look for these differentiators because they can have a profound influence on your backpacking experience.

VERSATILITY: Some backpacking quilts can be used in a wider variety of ways than others, which may be an important factor based on the way you like to backpack. For example, quilts that can be fully unzipped can be used as a blanket in a wider range of temperatures that those with closed foot boxes. Wider width quilts can be used for hammocks and ground sleeping, something to consider if you plan on doing both.

SIZING: When sizing a quilt, it’s important to understand whether the length includes the foot-box or not, since several inches of fabric are lost when forming a foot box. Quilt makers often provide recommended heights for users when quoting sizes, so look for these. Hammock users can usually get by with narrower quilts than ground sleepers, because they use underquilts which wrap around their sides and insulate them. Ground sleepers need the extra fabric and insulation to tuck under their sides to prevent drafts.

AVAILABILITY: Many of the quilt makers who specialize in highly customized quilts often have very long backorder times (2 months or more)  during periods of high demand. If you need a quilt and can’t wait, you’re probably better off buying a less customized, off-the-shelf model. This one factor, more than any other, can often determine which quilt you select.

Written 2018.

Check out SectionHiker’s 10 Best Gear Guides

Disclosure: SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that sell the products we recommend or link to if you make a purchase through them. When reviewing products, we test each thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. Our reputation for honesty is important to us, which is why we only review products that we've tested hands-on. Our mission is to help people, which is why we encourage readers to comment, ask questions, and share their experiences on our posts. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

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29 comments

  1. There is no difference in warmth from duck down and goose down. However, geese are longer lived and larger birds, generally speaking. Duck down requires a bit more sorting to get a somewhat lower fill power down. Geese tend to produce more and larger down plumes than ducks do. So while you can get 800FP untreated duck down (treatment adds about 50FP) it is not suitable for higher fill powers from a manufacturing stand point (850-950FP.) Sort’a like buying clear knotless wood to do a job as opposed to common wood…you will buy 5 to 10 times as much to cut out only the clear parts of the wood for use. High fill (700-800FP) duck down will actually cost more to sort than the equivalent goose down. But, goose is in HIGH demand, which tends to drive the price higher. I use whatever the manufacturers prefer (!800-900FP) for my bags and quilts.

    As with any rule of thumb, rules were meant to be broken. Ducks actually produce the *best* down. The Eider duck produces a fine 700FP-750FP down that many consider the best you can buy. It actually holds heat better than goose down, regardless of the fill power. Fill power only measures loft, NOT the actual insulating value of the down. Eider down is “clingy”, not slippery like goose down, meaning it will form a more even layer in a bag preventing cold spots/under filled areas. It is also more water proof than goose down, naturally. And each barbule on a plume is more springy making it compress/recover better. Why don’t I use it?? COST. The 16-18oz fill alone for a sleeping bag runs between $1000-6000. Beware of mixes and “Eider” brand names, they usually are not 100% premium eiderdown.

    • Also worth mentioning that there is a glut in the market for high fill power goose down (900 and 950), which explains major price drop for the high quality stuff.

      The increase in supply is caused an increase in recycled down bedding.

  2. ZPacks makes a quality quilt as well.

    • Zpacks is one of those brands that’s established a widespread reputation for cold/under-insulated quilts in their race to the bottom in gear weight. I hope that turns around, but until then they’ve been consciously omitted from this list.

      • Philip – first, thanks for the write ups – enjoy reading and good and informative :)

        Regarding zpacks, seems a bit harsh to single out? I’ve got a zpacks 20 and an EE Convert 20, and they seem extremely similar in both loft (both close to the stated loft) and warmth (both good to about 30 for me…about in line with your add 10 comment). Unless zpacks designs have changed the basis of temperature claims, guess is a few years old?

    • I almost bought a Zpacks but was turned off by the fact that they use cuben fiber for their baffles. Makes them really tricky to wash since the cuben will shrink under too much heat. Also, this is one area where Zpacks does not stand out in terms of weight savings; the EE Revelation is just as light, as are a number of other brands.

      • It’s easy to buy a very lightweight quilt, but can you buy one that is true to its temperature rating? Don’t get me wrong. I love UL quilts and use them, but some vendor’s quilts are warmer than others. If a brand overemphasizes gear weight, look carefully at the amount of down fill/quality they include in their bags. This is a case of the fox guarding the hen house. There is enormous incentive to emphasize gear weight and therefore a good reason to consider buying a warmer bag or adding down overfill to guarantee a warmer experience.

  3. I read somewhere that treated down deteriorates more quickly than untreated, especially when you wash it. Is there any truth to this?

  4. I was surprised to not see a Feathered Friends quilt make the list, especially the UL sleeping bag quilt. I’ve been thinking that would be an excellent addition to the gear closet, and enable me to ditch some other items – given how adaptable it is.

  5. shocked FF didn’t make this list!

  6. I’m sorry, I was confused with the ff label.
    Flicker 20 UL quilt sleeping bag, guess its both?

    • A quilt is backless and the flicker has a back, which means it’s a sleeping bag.

      Feathered friends and other manufacturers call their quilts and sleeping bags “quilt sleeping bags” to fool search engines into listing them in search results. Unfortunately they make it confusing for consumers.

  7. Another plus for a quilt is for extra warmth when combined with a traditional bag.

    I don’t own a zero rated sleeping bag anymore. Instead, I have a 20 degree bag and a 20 degree quilt. Typically I use the quilt for most camping and then when it gets too cool (typically in the under 40 range) due to me moving and causing drafts, I’ll switch to the bag. Then, when it’s even colder (I’ve been down to near zero) I simply use the quilt over the sleeping bag and I’ve been plenty warm – even more so than my old 0 degree. The bulk isn’t much more than what a real 0 degree bag would be. Things like my phone can be placed in the zippered pocket on the outside of my sleeping bag and kept warm enough by the quilt.

    Had a fun weekend last month with the Scouts on their annual Klondike and used the 2-layer system all weekend where the day temps struggled to reach 20 degrees. I slept fine in just a set of thermals

    If I were to do more serious winter camping or do it more than the 1-2 weekends a year, I might invest in another serious cold weather bag, but I just don’t find a need.

    For the record, I am using an EMS 20 degree bag that’s about 10 years old now. I’m going to be very sad when it needs replacing as it has a bunch of features that probably make it a bit heavier, but also make it very adaptive. Things like a removable hood, multiple draft cinches, a slightly wider body so I can turn easily on my side, and the previously mentioned pocket for keeping stuff like a phone, flashlight, etc handy.

    My current quilt is an Enlightened Equipment Revelation that I’m going into my second year on. It’s significantly lighter than the previous quilt (mostly due to a higher quality down – 950 vs 650 – and a lighter fabric) It’s actually a bit unnerving at first at just how light this is. My previous quilt didn’t have a good foot enclosure which really does make a difference in cooler temps. Bought it wide to get less drafts. Love the compressability.

    • I have both the Nunatak ArcUL -7C(20F) and the EE Revelation -7C (20F) quilts. The EE quilt is definitely not as warm as the Nunatak- about 5C -6C difference I would say. I would now, after much use, not take the EE to more than 0C and I now would use the Nunatak for everything to the quoted -7C. If in doubt I would take the Nunatak. In coldish weather I sleep in thermals, socks and woollen beanie. The two quilts warmth is not the same. I believe EE has looked into this. I don’t blame EE for this as an EN rating I believe is impossible to attain for a quilt and I am used to the idea of LIMIT and COMFORT ratings as per the EN standard for sleeping bags. For me the “COMFORT” on the EE is about 0C and the Nunatak is well towards/close to -7C. I bought the Nunatak 6 months ago and the EE one year ago. Also the Nunatak exactly matches the promised width dimensions, the EE does not by several centimetres.

  8. I see EE has a 7d option now. Nice ! They also add more fill for the same temp rating. I guess too many cold complaints.

  9. CAPT Gary Andres USN ret

    Once again, Phillip…out of the ballpark with this review! In preps for my AT thru hike — start about a month from now — i bought an EE Convert (I was still not sure if I could go full quilt, just yet). The troops at EE were outstanding (I dealt with both Jacob and Tyler). Additionally, I went custom…and while concerned with time delay in doing so, EE provided me my pseudo-quilt in about two weeks! Amazing service, amazing product. And again, thanks for this website, amigo!

    • Good choice. The Convert is a lot like the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 hoodless sleeping bag I use. It can be opened up like a quilt or used zipped up without the drafts that quilts can suffer from in cooler weather.

  10. I’ve had a Katabatic Gear Palisdade quilt since 2014, rated to 30 degrees, and can’t say enough about how warm it is! Very comfortable down to freezing, and liveable down into the 20s. The company is great as well – last year one of the mitten clips broke and one of the other attachment clips was starting to feel loose, and they repaired it for free and I only had to pay shipping to get it to them. Great customer service. Well worth the investment.

  11. I own a Zpacks.com Quilt..and love it… Zpacks.com have won many awards for there Quilts…

  12. I’ve had an Enlightened Equipment Revelation for a few years and love it. I recently picked up a Klymit Double V pad, and of course the pad straps that originally came with the EE Revelation won’t fit the double-sized pad.

    I asked EE Customer Service what I could do. They asked for the dimensions of the Double-V, and custom-made a strap, and shipped it to me, for JUST $3.00. That was way beyond what I could have expected.

    It’s refreshing for someone to place customer service ahead of revenue optimization.

  13. You guys need to check out Zen Bivy….

  14. While I understand the Zpacks commentary and feel it is deserved to a degree, I just want to also chime in that I own one of their quilts and find it to be warm and well built. Will I consider these other manufacturers in the future? Sure — this article proves there are a lot of great options out there and perhaps Zpacks will be revisited in the future.

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